Early studies suggested the presence of a toxin from some samples of maize that was pellagragenic in experimental animals. Schoental (1983) suggested that mycotoxins resulting from fungal spoilage of maize and other grain stored under damp conditions may have been responsible for some outbreaks of pellagra. Certainly, the only known outbreak of the disease in Mexico can be traced to a consignment of maize that was shipped under damp conditions and had a significant fungal overgrowth. As discussed in Section 8.4.2 and Section 8.4.3, a number of bacterial, fungal, and environmental toxins activate ADP-ribosyltransferase orpoly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, and it is possible that chronic exposure to such toxins will deplete tissue NAD(P) and be a contributory factor in the development of pellagra when intakes of tryptophan and niacin are marginal.
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